Company can keep $2M, other $2M subject to new benchmarks
By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — After many months of discussions, Indian River County and Piper Aircraft have renegotiated a grant incentive package the county first offered the aviation company in 2008.
During a Dec. 18 meeting, county commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a new agreement that will allow the aircraft company to keep $2 million of the original $4 million granted in 2008 as the first payment of a $12 million benchmark-driven economic development incentive package.
The financial incentive package was offered to Piper to help retain the company and jobs in Vero Beach.
Piper could also keep the other $2 million moving forward if they meet certain levels of employment, specifically 600 employees through 2015.
County staff said there were three benchmarks given in the initial package, wages, capital investment and employment levels. Piper was able, even in a down economy, to meet and exceed the first two, but had to lay off workers, failing to meet the third criteria.
If the aircraft company does not meet the employment benchmark at the end of the next four calendar years, including 2012, it will be required to pay back the county $500,000 each year.
The county will not be required to hold the rest of the grant package, $8 million, for Piper either.
The state also joined in the effort to retain Piper and paid them $6.6 million with more promised if benchmarks similar to the county’s were met. The state’s agreement with Piper was also renegotiated, and $3.3 million is secure in Piper’s coffers.
The state is requiring Piper retain 650 full-time employees through 2015 and if they do not, they will be required to repay 25 percent of the other $3.3 million each year, plus penalties.
Commission Chairman Joe Flescher and Commissioner Bob Solari voted against the agreement, saying they were unsatisfied with the communications and requests for information between the county and Piper.
Chairman Flescher said the original agreement had benchmarks and consequences for not meeting those benchmarks, also known as clawbacks, and he felt the original agreement needed to be followed and no break given for not meeting the employment benchmarks.